Ichigo poked his head out his window and twisted so that he faced upwards. "Oi, Rukia!" He heard no response, but knew that she was listening from her spot on the roof. "Are you planning on staying there all night?"
"Baka! You'll freeze out there. Don't be so stubborn and come back inside."
He reasoned logically, albeit rashly.
Ichigo's thoughts went to earlier this afternoon;
"Hey, Rukia, aren't you at least going to get started on your homework? We have fifty Algebra problems to finish by tomorrow, and we have a test on Thursday." He preached, his usual scowl a bit deeper than usual as he looked disapprovingly at the raven-haired girl that was comfortably sitting on his bed, while he sat at his desk, cramming to finish all the blasted Math problems.
Rukia was staring into space, obviously unfazed by their large amounts of work.
"Hey, Rukia? Are you with me?" He waved a hand in the air, seeing if she at least acknowledged him, to no avail.
"OI! MIDGET! I'm talking to you!" He shouted, finally loosing his patience.
Rukia seemingly snapped back into reality and looked at him with startled eyes, which quickly narrowed into a glare, which was almost immediately succeeded by a right hook to his unguarded jaw.
"ARGH! What the hell was that for?!" He rubbed the painful spot.
"There's no need to yell, idiot." She said with crossed arms. Rukia then stood up from his bed and headed towards the door.
Sensing her unusually tense vibe, Ichigo asked in a much calmer tone, "Hey, is something wrong?"
"Nothing to worry about." She answered without looking at him, then walked out of the room, leaving behind a confused Ichigo. 'Something's definitely bothering her, but what?'
"WHAT DID YOU DO TO NEE-SAN?!?!?!" Came the angry reclamation from the dirty little lion plush living in his house. Kon jumped at Ichigo, who easily caught him in one hand and in one swift movement threw him against the wall on the opposite side of the room.
"Idiot! I didn't do anything." Ichigo said, not really in the mood to deal with the soul candy's antics.
"Then why did she leave?! I just saw her going outside into the freezing cold by herself! Of course I tried to stop her, but she just looked at me with this weird expression, told me to stay here and keep an eye on you, then left!" Kon explained everything in a frantic voice.
"Shut up!" Ichigo barked at the stuffed animal. "She'll be back soon enough." He said dismissively. He pushed back the nagging sense of worry in the back of his mind., and tried to concentrate on his homework.
After an hour of fruitless waiting, he finally decided he'd had enough. "I'm gonna go look for Rukia. Try not to break anything while I'm gone." He announced, pointedly ignoring whatever response Kon gave him. He grabbed his jacket and quickly headed out.
'Damn it's cold.' Ichigo thought as he walked rapidly down the third street he went to in search of his short companion. 'Rukia, where the hell did you go?'
Again he tried to subside his growing worries, but this time it wasn't long before his chest was tight with the feeling, and he found himself jogging up and down streets in search of the girl.
Finally, after what seemed like forever running in the cold wind, he felt her all-too-familiar presence nearby. "Rukia!!" he called as he sprinted off in her direction, impatient to see for himself that she was really alright, and prove his inner worrying wrong.
"I understand." He heard her say into the receiver of her cell phone. Her voice had sounded resigned and…sad.
"Rukia." He said again, as he finally came to a stop beside her. Her eyes widened for a moment, but she quickly recovered and proceeded to slid her phone into her jacket pocket.
"Ichigo. What are you doing here?" She asked, finally focusing her attention on him.
"That's my line. You've been gone for an hour, I thought something had happened to you." He said, frowning at her behavior.
"That almost sounded like concern, Ichigo. You're not getting soft on me now, are you?" She teased, smirking, but he could tell her heart wasn't in it.
His frowned deepened. "Rukia, is something wrong?"
The wind blew around them in a soft breeze, the chill biting his cheeks. The few remaining leaves on the trees at this time of year fluttered, making the only sound around them.
"Come on Rukia, the Winter War was almost one year ago, we went to Hueco Mundo together and fought the Espada. Do you really still think there's still any reason for you to hide things from me?"
Rukia bit her lip and focused her gaze on the ground. She opened her mouth to speak, when another breeze caught her and made her shiver.
Ichigo didn't miss this. "Come on. Let's get back to my house, your gonna get sick if you stay out here any longer."
He started walking, knowing that she'd be following close behind.
"I don't get sick." She stated proudly as she fell into step with the orange-head.
Back to the present
Once back to the house, Rukia had excused herself and went to take a bath, while Ichigo decided to resume his homework.
Some time later, he noticed her reiatsu appear on the roof. At first he chose to let her be, figuring she just wanted some time to herself, but when he was about to go to bed and she still hadn't come back inside, he went to check on her.
"Oi, Rukia! Are you planning on staying there all night?"
When he heard no response, he added, "Baka! You'll freeze out there. Don't be so stubborn and come back inside."
One second… Two… Three.
He heard the sound as he flopped down beside Rukia's unsuspecting form on the roof.
"Ichigo!" she hissed.
He only smirked and said, "So just what is so damn interesting out here?"
Rukia, recovered from her surprise, hugged her knees to her chest and rested her chin on them. The light breeze ruffled her black hair, which softly tickled her neck. The moon was full tonight, and it bathed her features in silver grace.
She sighed. "I can't believe it's been almost a year." She said finally, bringing Ichigo out of his trance.
He didn't need to ask to know that she was referring to the Winter War, when Soul Society had taken the final stand against Aizen and his army, and Ichigo and his friends had gone to Hueco Mundo in a rescue mission to save Orihime, who had been kidnapped by Aizen.
"I know. It seems like only yesterday… This has been a pretty uneventful year though, hasn't it?" He relaxed back and lied down, facing the sky, putting his hands under his head. "It feels almost weird to not be breaking into Soul Society or Hueco Mundo to save someone from impending doom. I think I'm getting rusty."
Rukia smiled, a small smile that didn't reach her eyes. "I received a call from Soul Society this morning." She said, still clutching her knees, the would-be smile still tugging at her lips. "They said they were making preparations for my return. This afternoon they called to say they were ready when I was."
"Oh." Ichigo said, sitting back up. "How long will you be gone?" He asked casually, pretending he didn't always feel disappointed when he heard her say she had to leave.
Rukia turned her eyes even lower. "This has been an uneventful year, you said so yourself."
Huh? "You didn't answer the question. How long are you staying there?" He asked again, this time, there was an edge to his voice.
"With just a few low-level Hollow showing up, there's no need to have two Soul Reapers posted in one town." Rukia went on.
What was she getting at? "Rukia, how long are you staying?" His eyes were narrowed and his question demanded an answer.
"… Ichigo, I was only allowed to stay here for the amount of time I did in case there was any threat after the Winter War. After a pretty much blank year, it's clear that no eminent danger is near."
Ichigo waited for her to finish, fighting the dread that he felt from her words. His fists were tight and beginning to shake.
"I've been ordered to return to Soul Society. Until further notice." she didn't look at him until after she had finished. Her eyes seemed watery and fearful.
"Until further notice?" He repeated, watching as she regretfully nodded.
"So, you'll just have to visit during short amounts of time. Fine. You'll have a hard time explaining to my Dad your lack of time here, though. He already thinks you're his daughter or something." He said non-chalantly, causing Rukia to take in a sharp breath and widen her eyes.
"… Ichigo…" she said softly. "I'm going to be a seated officer. I'll be on missions almost full time now, I'll have many responsibilities… Seated officers rarely get a chance to visit the World of the Living…" she trailed off, hoping he'd understood, and at the same time, wishing he didn't.
"So, what you're saying is that you're not coming back?"
She flinched, but quietly said, "Yes."
Ichigo was silent for a moment, then he went back into his room without a word.
Rukia came through the window a moment later. "Ichigo-"
"Save it. It's not like there's anything to say." His controlled words betrayed the anger he felt. He stood with his back to Rukia, trying to control the trembling in his body, both his hands clutched in tight fists at his sides.
"Ichigo, it's not like I want this-"
"It's not like you care, either!" He snapped, turning to look at her just in time to see her jump, startled, with big, glittering eyes. "They offer you some fancy rank and your off, just like that! Screw everything else, right? After all, it's not like there's anything worth staying for! What are a few forgotten people if the great Rukia Kuchiki gets a Seated possition!" He shouted, not even caring if his Dad or his sisters heard and woke up.
"Don't be so insensitive! Do you really think I want to do this?!" she yelled back, her eyes finally lighting up again.
"Oh poor Rukia, I didn't realize it was so hard on you." He said with acid, rolling his eyes angrily.
A pair of small hands suddenly grabbed the collar of his shirt. Rukia pulled him down and she stood on her tip-toes so that their faces were only centimeters apart. "Listen to me Ichigo, I did. Not. Want. THIS!" She said every word separately for emphasis. "It's not like they gave me a choice in the matter! You know what happened last time I stayed too long in this world! Do you think just because you defeated Aizen that the rules changed?! Are you really that naïve?!" Rukia roughly pushed him against a wall, letting go of his shirt, but pressing her hands firmly on his chest, so that he remained pinned where he was, and could only look wide-eyed as she kept on yelling.
"I've barely been able to drag this out as it is. But I can only keep up the excuses so far. You beat Aizen, after all, it's pretty obvious you can take care of this town without any help. In fact, I suspect the Captain Commander has been letting me stay here as a kindness for quite some time. But he can't ignore the rules forever." She finished, her fiery eyes stared into his intensely, but in the end, they darkened and glistened once more.
"Rules! It's always something to do with these stupid rules of yours! What good are they, anyway!"
"Ichigo." Rukia warned.
"No! I don't wanna hear this crap anymore! All these rules ever do is separate us! Why?! Does our being together somehow affect their beloved balance? Is our being happy that bad for them?" Ichigo had taken hold of Rukia's upper arms, roughly grabbing her as he desperately tried to do… something! Anything to keep her here! She was the one who dried his rain, the one who filled the empty space within him! She couldn't leave! They couldn't take her away.
He couldn't see her clearly, and it didn't take long to realize that his vision was being blurred by unshed tears. He blinked furiously in an attempt to keep them back, and he saw that Rukia's eyes were also sparkling with tears. A single one spilled down her cheek, and he instinctively moved to wipe it away.
"Please don't leave." His voice had been reduced to a raspy, broken whisper, all the held back emotions threatening to come out. "Stay with me." His brown eyes were pleading.
Rukia did the only thing she felt she could do, and pressed her body against his. She buried her face in his chest, relishing the feel of his body, the musky scent he carried with him, the warmth he radiated. Ichigo found his arms suddenly encircling her small frame, holding her there with him, hoping he could keep her like that forever…
A/N: there you go! Not a lot of action or anything, and I know it's been done. But this is just my take on it. Maybe a little too fluffy but after seeing Fade to Black, I think these two can be way fluffier than we've been led to think. Long live ichiruki!